Data Driven Leadership is a competence which enables organisations to improve connectivity between a business and its processes, products, services and customers through optimal leveraging of data. The outcome is improved prioritisation and resource allocation, fast-paced decision making, focused actions and reliable process execution. All of which lead to tangibly improved business results in the short term and continuous improvement opportunities in the long term.
The role of a Data Driven Leader is to drive accountability and focus on building data culture to achieve business impact. Typically aided by cutting-edge data tooling, he or she connects people with data to implement better decisions, which are achieved by steering teams away from opinions, cognitive bias, group-think and self-censorship towards hard facts.
Of course, summarising Data Driven Leadership in this way doesn’t even scratch the surface of what it entails in a practical sense. So to get you in the zone, here is some food for thought to help you start looking at your organisation through the lens of Data Driven Leadership.
The Art of Leadership
Let’s start with looking at Leadership in itself. What’s your perspective on it? Gone are the days when Leadership was confined to the board room. Leadership is a trait that needs to be spread across your organisation. Unlike management, which might be regarded as a bit of a science, Leadership is more of an art.
Facilitative Leadership starts with the art of asking the right questions about business processes and requires the art of listening to others. Both within the organisation and outside of it, involving customers who can contribute valuable outside-in perspectives. Data Driven Leadership is most successful in inclusive environments. To create such an environment, you will need courage.
The key to becoming a Facilitative Leader is making sure your employees and colleagues care about your data strategy and understand how it will drive growth and business impact. So, to start with, ‘Dear leader you need to have a data strategy’. Then you need to explain your business purpose, so everyone understands why they’re doing what they’re doing. Measure how far you have implemented it, in order to keep large groups of employees and colleagues involved.
Connective Leadership boosts capability
Connective Leadership aligns everybody to work together as one team. Achieving this requires a good internal digital communication strategy. Although digital communities have invaded our working spaces, we still shy away from technology. Why is this the case when there are so many collaboration tools and platforms? Peter Senge hit the nail on the head when he wrote about the Learning Organisation in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline’. His advice was to put collective learning first and don’t let the boardroom hide from technology and accountability. With COVID-19, digital communities and remote working/coaching/learning have really become the new normal.
Data Driven Leaders naturally need to focus on data analytics to achieve effective decision making. But this has to involve more than just listening to excel-savvy business analysts. It calls for creating a digital community to connect people in different workspaces and communicating with them regularly. It means asking for feedback and review of reports with an open communication style. There needs to be a focus on knowledge management and using the tacit knowledge that exists within your organisation. Data needs to be democratised, with secure access to it provided when possible. Capabilities need to be enhanced through for purpose data analytics learning programmes for employees which are connected to real process improvement projects. And senior cross-functional management from all disciplines needs to be involved.
Ready to begin your journey?
Data Driven Leadership (DDL) bridges the gap between business purpose and business impact. Any culture or change initiative that is not tied to these principles will fail and be, at the best, a standalone project. DDL is something your organisation must breathe and live daily. It is Leadership connected to short governance cycles with a relentless focus on accountability in your business. Data Driven Leadership is an integrated approach to Leadership, Change management and Data Analytics in a continuous improvement environment.
Roberto Uding is a Business Intelligence Lead Architect at R&G Global Consultants, based in the Netherlands.